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Beware of the excesses of idealism

HINTS AND TRACES - Fr. Roy Cimagala (The Freeman) - January 10, 2021 - 12:00am

To pursue ideals is always good. In fact, we have to encourage everyone to do so. It would show in some way that we are driven with love, with a desire to do good. That would be the best condition for us to be in. It would keep us from falling into lukewarmness, complacency, and laziness. And, to be sure, we would be productive and fruitful that way. We fulfill God’s will for us.

Just the same, we have to be aware of the dangers that this attitude can also occasion. And that happens when we become too idealistic that we fail to be realistic. We get too attached to the ideal that we avoid considering the bare realities on the ground.

In a sense we fall into the excesses of idealism. Idealism is when we tend to build some kind of ivory tower, enclosing ourselves in our own ideas, theories and doctrines that, while useful to a certain extent, always need to be adapted properly to the objective situation or issue at hand.

That’s when we become armchair players in the drama of life, not realizing that ideas, theories and doctrines are no cold, frozen things, but are meant to dynamic, subject always to some development, deepening, and evolution.

What is worse is that when our ideals are not attained precisely because they are badly applied and adapted to the realities on the ground, then we can either fall into a deep state of disappointment and depression or into the other extreme of forcing the ideal by using violence and even terrorism.

Both can be a consequence of perfectionism brought about when we are too idealistic. Sad to say, we are actually seeing both cases taking place in the world today.

Another danger of idealism is the common tendency to make people associate themselves only with those who hold the same ideas as they have. This is not just a matter of having the legitimate specialization that all of us have, but rather of becoming a closed group that is unmindful of the objective needs of the others. Thus, we can have the anomaly of elitism.

It’s a subtle form of self-indulgence that can make people unaware of their failure to serve the real and objective needs of others because of the badly-based self-esteem they have due to their erroneous sense of idealism. In other words, they will not serve others if they fail to meet the standards and criteria of their idealism.

We have to be most careful with these dangers of idealism. What we should rather do is to be always mindful, thoughtful and eager to know, love and serve the others in their objective needs. In a sense, we have to get dirty with them, because no matter how sublime our human dignity is, we cannot deny that we always have weaknesses, failures, and sins.

We have to understand that the road to our proper human and Christian perfection, which is to be like God as God wants us to be, is by truly serving others in their needs.

Of course, we have to see to it that our serving them should be oriented in the end to the glorification of God, and not just the meeting of some human, natural and temporal needs. But we have to do it by considering them in their objective condition and circumstances in life, no matter how difficult.

IDEAL
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